What Can Make Robots More Human-like?
What is affect and why is it important for humans? How can feelings be defined and what is their relation to emotions and consciousness? What might be used in making a soft robot? Professor Antonio Damasio (University of Southern California, USA) discussed these and other questions in his honorary lecture, entitled 'Feeling, Knowing, and Artificial Intelligence'. The talk was delivered on April 16 at the at the XXII April International Academic Conference held by HSE University jointly with Sberbank.
Professor Antonio Damasio
Soft robotics has recently acquired popularity among both neuroscientists and data scientists, as it addresses the issue of making robots human-like. In order to become human-like, robots need to become vulnerable. From the perspective of neuroscience, the affect is what makes humans vulnerable.
Feelings and Emotions—What Is the Difference?
Hunger, thirst, pain, well-being, desire, fatigue, etc, are all examples of feelings. Ups and downs in body states, which reflect homeostatic needs of the body, are translated into feelings. And homeostatic feelings are the core of affect.
Formally defined, feelings are mental experiences of body states consequent to ongoing homeostatic regulation. It is clear that
- feelings are experiences rather than actions;
- the genesis of feelings lies in the variations in body states;
- feelings are completely related to homeostatic regulation.
It is critical to distinguish feelings from emotions and understand how they are related.
Feelings are subjective events; they are not objective any way. Whereas emotions are collections of actions (visible to others) and processes in the body
In fear we recoil, our facial expression changes, muscular tension increases, and concentration of neurochemical mediators in the blood stream increases. So, emotions are theatres—we act them out.
Film and theater actors play emotions while not having subjective feelings. But they convince us that they have those feelings—certain internal states—through portraying them.
Importantly, emotions can cause feelings: fear may engender changes in the body state, thus, resulting in feelings
From Physiology to Mental Experiences
There are no complete explanations on how bodily physiological processes are translated into mental experiences. This problem has biological, psychological, and philosophical aspects. The search for explanations necessarily draws attention to the nervous system (here meaning, the brain): its architecture and functional mechanisms.
Correspondingly, two questions are critical. First, how the nervous system generates maps of the world external to the body and processes inside the body; second, how the nervous system assesses the maps, in other words, makes us conscious.
What Is Going On Inside and Outside Our Bodies: Two Perception Channels
Thanks to the nervous system, we can perceive what is going on in the body (interoception) and outside of it (exteroception). Both exteroceptive and interoceptive channels ensure signals are perceived, processed and stored in the nervous system.
Visual signals of the external environment start their neural journey from the retina, then reach the optic nerve, which maps the signals onto the visual cortex. After further processing of the signals in the brain, we acquire maps of visuals and their features (depth, forms, colour, etc.).
However, there are substantial differences in the architecture of channels for interoception and exteroception. First, in systems such as hearing, touch, and vision (which ensure information flow from the outside into the body), axons (long, slender projection of a nerve cell, or neuron) are fully myelinated, which allows them to transport external signals without leakage. Meanwhile, interoceptive channels work through denuded axons. So, they may interact with each other and be affected by the metabolic surrounding. As a result, the signal leakage is inevitable.
Second, as signals are about to enter the nervous system (or are at the crossroad of structures inside the nervous system), there is not blood brain barrier (BBB) in the neural channels in the case of interoception as opposed to the exteroception. So, the world of the blood system mingles with the world of the nervous system. Consequently, processes and states such as metabolism, digestion, and tiredness, have direct flow into the nervous system. And due to the closeness of the exteroceptive channels, the internal bodily processes find their separate mapping in the nervous system and underlie homeostatic feelings.
Importantly, the maps of the external events can be evaluated from the perspective of the body. Hence, they can affect the body, interact with the interoception of internal genesis, and modify feelings
Imagine you cut your finger. First, you feel pain (something happens in the internal world), but then the pain subsides although the emotions are still there and make you take actions concerning the external processes and objects that caused you pain.
Role of Consciousness
Conscious nature of feelings is critical. Feelings have come to living organisms (here, organisms with nervous system) with consciousness and brought deliberation. Up to the birth of feelings, organisms were regulated autonomously (by autonomic nervous system—sympathetic nervous system). The organism could not and did not need to intervene the regulation deliberately.
Now, when we follow other sophisticated creators or when we think about ourselves, one important thing is the “I KNOW”. The feeling produces conscious knowledge
And since the feelings are about being conscious of body states consequent to homeostatic regulations, then feelings open space for deliberate regulations. This is what should be mimicked in soft robots: make them reactive to their own operational state, instill interoception in them.
‘There Is a Big Question as to What Extent a Human Is Still a Human and a Machine Is Still a Machine’
Will new technologies divide or unite people and society? What mechanisms should be used to balance society’s interests and progress so that innovation does not dehumanize humans? How should interaction between humans and AI be structured? Is all technology good for people? TheXXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference of HSE University discusses these questions and more.
As part of the XXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference, HSE University held a meeting between HSE scholars and Anton Kotyakov, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation. The title of the meeting was ‘The Future of Social Security: Trends and Forecasts.’ The experts and the Minister discussed the experience and lessons learned from population support initiatives during the pandemic, social protection efforts to reduce poverty and inequality, measures to counter sanctions, and the situation in the labour market.
The number of older persons and their life expectancy are on the rise in many countries worldwide. As they age, some people need assistance with daily living activities, something their family is not always capable of providing. This creates a demand for professional long-term care that integrates medical and social services. How Russia can benefit from other countries' experience of providing public long-term care is discussed in a report* presented by the HSE Centre for Social Policy Studies at the XXIII Yasin International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development hosted by the HSE University.
In Mexico, a pilot project applying artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms enabled the Tax Administration Service to detect 1200 tax-evading companies and 3500 fraudulent transactions within three months – a task that would have taken 18 months using conventional methods. Despite some obvious benefits, the use of AI-based solutions to counter corruption also entails several challenges, according to experts of the HSE Laboratory for Anti-Corruption Policy (LAP) and the HSE Faculty of Law who have examined the relevant experience of several countries. A report based on the study’s* findings was presented at the XXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference hosted by the Higher School of Economics.
Innopolis University has announced the results of Global Al Challenge, an international AI industry online hackathon in which teams of developers compete to create new materials using artificial intelligence. The DrugANNs team, which included students from the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science, took third place.
HSE University academics held a discussion with Maxim Oreshkin, presidential aide and graduate of the HSE University, as part of theXXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference. They talked about the current socioeconomic situation and the future of Russia's development. The discussion was moderated by HSE Academic SupervisorYaroslav Kuzminov.
What risks is the Russian financial system facing today? What is the Central Bank of Russia going to do to mitigate them? Why do we need a high key rate? Has the regulator changed its approach to the building of forex reserves? Will the regulator remain hawkish on cryptocurrencies? Ksenia Yudaeva, First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia, answered these and other questions during a round table entitled ‘Russia’s Financial Sector under New Global Conditions’. The event was held as part of the XXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference.
‘The Northern Sea Route Is an Efficient Transport Communication Channel to Deliver Goods Sold on Trade Platforms’
The Northern Sea Route has a key role to play in developing Russia's export potential in the Asia-Pacific region. As the current situation requires a reorientation of export flows from Europe to Asia, this route is taking on a new significance in the search for effective transport communication with Indian and Chinese markets. An Arctic Research session was held at the XXIII Yasin International Academic Conference.
In recent years, advanced technologies for creating deepfake images have made it almost impossible to distinguish them from real photos and videos. Researchers discussed the future development of deepfakes and how to protect yourself from new types of fraud during the round-table discussion ‘Fake News: An Interdisciplinary Approach’ as part of the XXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development.
Demand for higher education increases with the development of technologies that replace routine labour, and there is already increased demand for specialists in the IT industry today. At the same time, some university graduates neither study nor work, while about one third of this ‘free’ youth cohort lives in poverty (as do their parents). This topic was discussed at the XXIII Yasin International Academic Conference session on human capital and salaries.